Sunday, 4 April 2004

Is the Iraq Survey Group dropping the ball?

Alex Knapp links a lengthy analysis of the Iraq Survey Group’s work in Iraq that raises a lot of very important questions, to wit:

US forces participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom had the latest chemical detection gear, including chemical detection paper, chemical agent detector kits, improved chemical agent monitors, and sophisticated Fox Chemical Recon Vehicles. Some American GIs remembered well the shortfalls of this equipment in Gulf War I. Now all of these older devices had been improved, and new and more accurate devices had been issued. In fact, some mobile Army labs had highly sensitive mass spectrometers to test for suspicious substances. Who could argue the results of repeated tests using these devices without explaining how DoD had apparently been ripped off by contractors for faulty products? Apparently, the ISG could and did.

One of the reported incidents occurred near Karbala where there appeared to be a very large “agricultural supply” area of 55-gallon drums of pesticide. In addition, there was also a camouflaged bunker complex full of these drums that some people entered with unpleasant results. More than a dozen soldiers, a Knight-Ridder reporter, a CNN cameraman, and two Iraqi POWs came down with symptoms consistent with exposure to nerve agent. A full day of tests on the drums resulted in one positive for nerve agent, and then one resulted in a negative. Later, an Army Fox NBC [nuclear, biological, chemical] Recon Vehicle confirmed the existence of Sarin. An officer from the 63d Chemical Company thought there might well be chemical weapons at the site.

But later ISG tests resulted in a proclamation of negative, end of story, nothing to see here, etc., and the earlier findings and injuries dissolved into non-existence. Left unexplained is the small matter of the obvious pains taken to disguise the cache of ostensibly legitimate pesticides. One wonders about the advantage an agricultural commodities business gains by securing drums of pesticide in camouflaged bunkers six feet underground. The “agricultural site” was also co-located with a military ammunition dump, evidently nothing more than a coincidence in the eyes of the ISG.

The bottom line is that Saddam’s troops apparently needed to use a lot of “pesticides” for rather mysterious reasons. Definitely RTWT™.